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Central America Atolls and Archipelagos

Central America's islands: the atolls and archipelagos of Central America

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Central America Archipelagos: Cayos Cochinos

Central America Archipelagos: Cayos Cochinos

Kirsten Hubbard
Why visit one island when you can visit many? Visit one of Central America's archipelagos or island atolls! Central America is home to a number of island groups, ranging from tiny islets to larger inhabited isles. Deserted beaches, palm-strewn inlets, pristine waters — these Central America archipelagos are an explorer’s dream.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Although the Bocas Del Toro archipelago attracts more tourists than other equally Panama islands, its popularity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Because of this, much of the island chain remains pristine. Miles of deserted beaches ring the many islands, some used as nesting grounds for sea turtles. Offshore, the deep-sea fishing, kayaking, snorkeling and diving is unrivaled. Bocas Town on Isla Colon, is reachable by plane from Panama City, or by a more taxing overland and over-water journey.

Turneffe Atoll, Belize

Turneffe Atoll is the largest of Belize’s three atolls. Just 25 miles east of Belize’s mainland, the atoll is also located only a few hundred yards from the second-largest barrier reef in the world, unsurpassed snorkeling, diving, and fishing opportunities lie immediately offshore. There are several lodges available on Turneffe’s cayes, each providing a sought-after private island experience.

Cayos Cochinos, Honduras

Honduras’s Cayos Cochinos — the Hog Islands, in English — are a group of two larger islands and thirteen small islets, just a few miles off the coast of La Ceiba. Declared a reserve by multiple national and international organizations, the islands remain exquisite. Diving, snorkeling, and other water sports are the main reason travelers visit. But because the islands are settled by the Garifuna, they offer a unique cultural experience as well.

San Blas Islands, Panama

Northeast of Panama’s famous canal lie the San Blas Islands. The archipelago is mainly settled by the Kuna Indians, celebrated for their unique culture and decorative “molas”, or woven artwork. The islands themselves are paradisaical, with white sand beaches fringed by palm trees along crystal-clear waters. Because there are so many islands and islets, one could spend an entire year exploring them all. However, the most popular are Coco Blanco, Achutupu, and Kagantupu, which you can reach by chartered plane or by hailing a ride on a Kuna merchant ship from Colon.

Glover’s Atoll, Belize

Beautiful Glover’s Atoll, in the Glover’s Marine Reserve of Belize, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. Because the atoll is so far-flung from Belize’s mainland, its surrounding bright blue waters teem with marine life, making for excellent diving, boating, and snorkeling. The atoll was once the headquarters of pirates John and Rodger Glover. Now, its main islands, Northeast Caye and Southwest Caye, both feature cabins, campgrounds, watersports instruction—and quite possibly, buried treasure.

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